In today’s Gospel we are witness to a scene that takes place after the Baptism of Christ at the River Jordan. John the Baptist, in seeing Christ, proclaims to his followers, his disciples: ‘Behold the lamb of god…‘ He then goes on to explain why he made the comment. I find his proclamation an act of absolute faith and an act of supreme strength and courage.
Faithful people have varying degrees of courage and strength. In many, sadly, courage and conviction are missing – they simply are followers of the norm. Others, can espouse great thoughts and grand ideas that have no life except in their minds and those of the ones who discuss it with them. There is no actually hanging oneself out there. If it becomes too hard or the social pressures too great they recant, they submit to the corporate will. They reevaluate their position.
Then there are those who take the ultimate step and offer themselves totally to an ‘other’, something that defies their understanding, their concept, their ideal. Someone who transcends the capability of everyone. As with St. John the Baptist, they offer their life to God.
In this scene St. John proclaims to his followers that I am not the answer, I am not important. Look to Him coming towards us – He is the reason – He is what matters – He is meaning for all that I have done. St. John relinquishes his importance for the truth. Many of his followers then follow Jesus, and this is not only ok with St. John but it validates his mission. His life is affirmed when he is no longer the one people look to. His mission is fulfilled and completed and he recedes; his moment in the sun is passed as the true Son begins to light up the world.
In our world of self-promotion and desire for fame I can’t think of a more foreign concept than what St. John the Baptist gives witness to. To gain the importance and notoriety and then allow it to vanish, indeed to intentionally pass it on to another; it goes against the grain of what is popular in our society. But our society is one of desperate desires for attention and fame so that we can feel validated for a brief time. Judging our worth and success by how others adore us – all the time never coming to know who we really are. And though this sad path is filled with fears and struggles; it is the easy path to take. We can always lament of our failures as we comfortably settle back down into the rest of society and wallow in the desolation of an insensate existence.
St. John the Baptist witness shows us the heroic life of giving oneself over to God. To be brave enough to allow ourselves to be part of God’s plan. To understand that our true worth is not in how we make ourselves in our own image, but how we blend our uniqueness into God’s image of man. To be able to take the ridicule and buffets from those around us who either don’t understand or are aggressively against us because of fear of the truth. Every day many of my prayers are centered around this great choice. I pray that I have the strength and conviction of faith that St. John witnessed to. My hope is that all of us can allow ourselves to blend into Christ’s message, to be able to resist the me-first instinct and follow St John the Baptist example when he tells those around him: ‘I must decrease’.